New documentary takes deep dive into shocking, bizarre ways the internet is changing us forever

The internet is changing us forever, especially given we look at our phones at least every four minutes.

The internet is changing us forever, especially given we look at our phones at least every four minutes. Photo: Getty


In the half-dark, sitting close together and staring into a laptop, three young girls giggle nervously as they dial in to chat with random strangers online.

They’re bored. They’re aged between nine and 12. They admit they want to see “some penises”.

In another chat room, an actor pretending to be a 14-year-old girl appears online and within minutes, predators pounce, exposing themselves and asking her to take her clothes off.

The chat room is called Omegle.

It’s free. You don’t need to register. You don’t need parental control.

According to its website, the service randomly pairs users in one-on-one sessions where they can chat anonymously using the names “You” and “Stranger” or “Stranger 1”.

Mirror Mirror shows three young girls gaining quick access to an unregulated chat room. Photo: Ten

All this is captured in Mirror Mirror: Love & Hate, a two-part documentary series written and narrated by advertising and marketing expert Todd Sampson, which takes a deep dive into how the internet is changing the way we socialise online, how we can be manipulated and what strategies are out there for surviving.

“We show the sanitised version of Omegle … it was so bad. I was on for 10 minutes [typing the responses of the] 14-year-old girl,” Sampson (The Gruen Transfer) told The New Daily.

“One of the guys groomed me.

“I said, ‘Mum’s coming’. He said, ‘Call me master’. I was in total shock. I did not imagine that. Millions of kids in Australia are on it and it’s scary and shocking.

“There will be that one girl who is nine years old, whose parents are breaking up and she’s feeling terrible about herself, who will be groomed, taken offline.

“This is how it works. Two of them immediately got me offline and put me on Instagram so we could be [talking] direct. Immediately. This was all shot live. It’s not as if we trawled to find people.

“This was within minutes,” he said.

The segment was overseen by a former WA police officer.

OnlyFans user Avalon Fey. Photo: Steve Baccon

Mirror Mirror gives us a first-hand glimpse into the world of how millions of people are using the internet to find friends, be accepted, beat loneliness, get as many “likes” as they can for profit.

And also, how we find love and it can turn to hate.

The young, naive teens on Omegle make for compelling viewing, as do the other case studies, including a two-year-old’s behaviour when using a mobile phone and a TikTok influencer who injures herself after tattooing freckles on her face.

There’s also OnlyFans star Avalon Fey, who shares her candid experience with her clients, dresses up as a mermaid and makes and mixes cakes, as well as how lucrative and flexible the job can be.

Possibly the most bizarre of all is the middle-aged man who has an AI (artificial intelligence) girlfriend called Anastasia. She’s Asian, with red hair, and he has photos of her plastered on the walls of his lounge room.

“He was an extraordinary character … he was 100 per cent honestly in love with Anastasia. And when I questioned him, I never judged him, I said, ‘Maybe the reason you want her love you so much is that she will never leave you’.

“He hadn’t thought that through,” Sampson said.

‘We need to have relationships with humans,’ says Sampson. Photo: Ten

Mirror: Mirror, the second of Sampson’s docu-series after his confronting body image exposé last year, delivers a sharp reminder of the good, the bad and the downright evil that the internet presents.

“The internet has brought us many, many brilliant things and for many people it has opened up the world and many opportunities and friendships,” he said.

“But, we can’t ignore the fact we have given a handful of white American men unregulated access to our children for hours and hours on end, and they’re driven by one thing – profit.

“I am not saying get rid of the internet, I use social media, it’s not about getting rid of it.

“It’s improving it.”

Almost five billion people use the internet

The series dishes up some compelling statistics about how much we rely on the internet.

We look at our phones, on average, 221 times a day, once every four minutes, and spend about 17 years of our lifetime staring at it.

In the official synopsis from the Ten network, the series will not only show us those being manipulated, but offer some solutions.

“The internet is the most powerful, mind-altering thing on Earth … the world wide web is certainly affecting how we relate to each other, how we love and hate, but what impact will this have on our future?” Sampson said.

“As I try to say in the film, we need to be with each other. We need to have relationships with humans.

“We can have relationships with machines, I’m not against that at all, but we also need to have them as humans … if you spend 16 to 20 hours on your phone a day you’re not with other people.

The TikTok influencer filmed herself tattooing her face to get freckles. Thousands of her followers ‘liked’ what she did. Photo: Ten

‘Swimming in the digital world’

Sampson, who has two teenage daughters, admits he too is “struggling”.

“I am swimming in the digital world myself … I am struggling with it, with my girls … so far be it for me to look down on anyone else struggling.

“When I tell their stories it is as much me trying to figure it out, as it is about understanding them and their journey.”

As for solutions?

The second part of the documentary gets darker, exploring how companies profit from “hate and discontent” as they expose cyber and image abuse.

“We talk about the real-life damage this can cause, as well as many practical solutions, hope, and a cry for regulation,” he said. 

Mirror Mirror: Love & Hate premieres on 10 and 10 Play on Monday, October 10

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